I signed up for the 15K Miyajima Island Marathon on Thanksgiving Day last year. I thought I ate too much turkey and I had to burn it off. Besides, what could be a better excuse to visit Miyajima and Hiroshima?
Reserving a hotel room for this event proved to be difficult. The marathon fell on popular cherry blossom viewing days in Japan. It was also the national spring break week. After some agonizing research, I found a room at Comfort Inn Otemachi in Hiroshima. I was lucky to be allotted a corner room. It was actually spacious by Japanese standard. Everything worked in the room. Continental breakfast was included. Oatmeal, eggs, sausage, rice balls, coffee, tea and toasts were served. To me, it was more than sufficient.
I had to admit I did not train much for this marathon. The last race I ran was in 2014 and it was a 12K. I had to rest the entire 2015 due to a knee injury. I made up my mind to walk the 15K if needed.
I arrived in Miyajima the day before the race. I picked up my bib packet and walked the course. It was beautiful. Cherry blossoms dotted with greenery and deer freely roaming the ground. Miyajima is an island and a mere 10-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima. It is home to the iconic red Tori gate and the UNESCO site, Itsukushima Shrine. I visited the Itsukushima Shrine after grabbing a sandwich from a nearby cafe. I visited when it was low tide. The shrine would appear to float on top of water if I had gone at high tide. Definitely check the tide tables before going. There are 2 Noh stages: one facing the sea for the gods and one inside for the emperor. Commoner access was strictly prohibited in the old days. I found this fact sarcastic, as there are now truck-loads of tourists visiting everyday.
I caught the JR ferry and headed back to Hiroshima for dinner. I found a ramen shop, Ichiran, close to the hotel. It is a famous chain serving big bowls of ramen with eggs and bbq pork. It was a windy night. The hot bowl of noodles was just what I needed for my carbohydrate loading before the race.
Day of the race went like a blur. I repeated what I did the day before with a thousand people around me. The 80-year old contestant behind me was still going strong at 13K mark. If she could do it so should I. I accelerated during the last kilometer and ran faster toward the finish line. My name was announced. Yes, I finished! I was immediately handed water and a rice ball. I was eager early looking for my finisher certificate while chowing stuff down. I got the certificate and a souvenir towel for the event. Exhausted, I dragged myself back to Hiroshima and called it a day.
Waking up with soreness everywhere, I still wanted to visit the Atomic Bomb Dome. Walking long the river, I saw a sign for river cruise. It proved to be a wise choice. Cherry blossom was in full bloom along the river. As the boat approached the Atomic Bomb Dome, I could hear my fellow passengers sighing in the background. It was tragic. Experiencing it in person reminded myself I should count my blessings. I walked past the Children’s Memorial and saw the thousands of paper cranes hanging in showcases.